Autism exists on such a large spectrum, it can be difficult to diagnose a child properly. It may take a while to diagnose autism, especially high-functioning autism.
In this article, you will learn the following:
- What is high-functioning autism
- What are the signs of high-functioning autism
- Why is high-functioning autism associated with aggressive behavior
- How is aggressive behavior combated in children with autism
- How ABA therapy can help high-functioning autistic children handle issues with aggressive behavior
What is high functioning autism?
The term “high-functioning autism” is not officially considered a correct medical term. It often gets used for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and those on the higher end of the spectrum. The ones who can do things typical people do with little to no help.
People who have high-functioning autism (HFA) can fully speak, read, and write. They perform ordinary life tasks with very little, or without any, special assistance. They show no sign of intellectual deficiency.
However, HFA tends to cause a lack of critical social skills. People with HFA may struggle with everyday social interactions. Recognizing how other people feel or expressing their own emotions is challenging. Communicating with other people correctly often takes more time and effort.
What are some signs of high-functioning autism?
Here are some of the most common signs of high-functioning autism someone may display:
A common issue for those on the higher end of the autism spectrum is sensitivity to emotions. Emotion sensitivity is a sign that often gets overlooked. When not taken into consideration, it can make the autistic person appear overdramatic.
However, the fact is that they experience and react to emotions differently. They get experienced more intensely than most typical people do.
Fixations on particular subjects or ideas
When someone repeatedly reads a book about a specific subject again and again. Or when someone listens to the same song multiple times every day. Both of those things indicate autistic fixations.
A typical example being: frequently talking about the same topic in every conversation, even when it may not be the most appropriate time.
These fixations can either be negative or positive. They can have a heavy influence on an autistic person’s life.
Difficulties with being social
A parent or teacher is often the one to first notice autism in children and teens. They begin to see that they cannot connect or get along with others their age.
They may have issues with working in groups and sharing things. They also often tend to have a much smaller social circle.
In contrast to the lower end of the spectrum, those on the higher end tend to learn and develop a vast vocabulary, usually younger than others.
They may avoid conversation with others their age. A cause of this can be due to having a hard time following what they are saying, or simply because it’s boring to them.
People can usually see a tendency to interrupt others or only focus on one specific topic.
Habits that are repetitive or restrictive
A repetitive habit is a repetitive action that must get done a certain way. A person with autism cannot comfortably do something they want to do without completing the practice in that particular way.
An example of a repetitive habit: they must tie and untie their shoes three separate times. The ritual must get done before they feel safe walking in them.
A restrictive habit is a habit that restricts them from living in a socially acceptable way. These habits can sometimes even be unsafe or harmful to their health.
An example of a restrictive habit: they cannot wear any footwear with socks, and it could be because they don’t like how they feel.
Unusual movement patterns
Unusual movement patterns are common in people with HFA. They usually tend to either walk on their toes or the balls of their feet.
Either may lead to adverse health issues ranging from blisters to broken bones. Odd walking patterns can even affect the spine and back health and lead to severe pain later in life.
People with HFA can sometimes think much faster than those around them. They could develop a tendency to answer other people based on their judgment. They might think it’s best because it’s much quicker. That’s why they sometimes can come across as very self-focused.
Also, someone with HFA may talk to themselves a lot. They are unable or uncomfortable to communicate with others properly. So, they communicate with themselves out loud.
They also can answer themselves as fast as they can ask themselves questions. Doing so leads to having lots of one-on-one conversations with themselves.
Why is high-functioning autism associated with aggressive behavior?
Aggression is a common association with high-functioning autism (HFA).
Under the observation of a professional, when behaviors go beyond being a personality trait, they can become a symptom of HFA.
Behaviors, such as aggression, get analyzed. They then get used as supporting causes in a diagnosis.
Therefore, aggression is often associated with HFA because it’s a common behavioral symptom of it.
Most people with HFA have personal or sensory issues. Some of their senses are extra sensitive. They can become difficult for them to deal with appropriately.
Sensory triggers may be another reason for the association between HFA and aggression. The response to those triggers tends to be aggressive. The reactions can quickly become very aggressive as a self-defense mechanism.
Here are some common reasons why aggressive behavior may get triggered in someone with HFA:
It’s prevalent for someone with HFA to have an intense dislike of change. Some may even be as extreme as eating the same thing, at the same place, prepared in the same way every day.
Suppose things aren’t how they should be or end up going in another direction than expected. In that case, it can cause feelings of extreme frustration and can even ruin their entire day.
Difficulty processing physical sensations
Sensory issues or sensitivities are common amongst people with autism. Intense feelings that get triggered can make them feel very uncomfortable and aggressive.
It can be how something smells, the texture or taste of particular food, too much noise, or clothes that don’t feel right. These are all things that can trigger extreme irritability, aggression, or even panic and anxiety in someone with HFA.
Sticking to strict routines
Someone with HFA may have a special devotion to specific daily routines set up in their lives. They could set up these routines by themselves or by another influence in their lives.
Breaking routine due to any reason can cause panic or extreme frustration resulting in aggressive behavior.
People with HFA are known to go to great lengths to complete their routine. Even if it may be detrimental to other aspects of theirs, or others, lives.
Combating aggressive behavior in autistic children
To combat aggressive behavior in autistic children, you need to look at what the trigger is. What is triggering the aggressive behavior?
Try and understand why they might feel the way they do and teach them alternative ways to react. Over time they may learn to overcome more minor triggers and get used to them as part of life.
It’s also crucial that you remain calm. Even if things begin to escalate, if you lose your cool, so will the autistic child. Keep your words limited to reduce raising stress levels in already tense situations.
Therapeutic strategies such as functional communication training, reinforcement strategies, or functional behavioral assessments are other options. They could help reduce how frequent and how intense aggressive behaviors in some autistic children are.
How ABA therapy can help high functioning autistic children with aggression issues
Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) is a kind of therapy that uses positive reinforcement. ABA therapy is a great starting point for figuring out what exact behaviors need to get addressed. It can also show you how to approach them effectively.
ABA therapy has been able to aid in helping autistic children learn coping skills. It shows them how to develop new, more effective behaviors. These new behaviors then replace the old, harmful aggressive ones.
ABA also helps them improve skills involving social interaction, communication, and learning. All skills that they may lack.
Alone, ABA has proved to reduce any aggressive behaviors. It also has a background with plenty of research and studies. Many experts highly recommend it for developmental conditions such as ASD.